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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839
Parish of Clooney [Bunratty Upper] (b)
In this Townland of Toonagh is situated the Field of Magh Adhair, where the Dal-Cassian Princes were inaugurated. Of this venerable locality Dr. O’Brien has written the following notice in his Irish Dictionary:-
Magh Adhair, a plain or field of adoration or worship where an open temple, consisting of a circle of tall straight stone pillars with a very large flat stone called Cromleac serving for an altar, was constructed by the Druids for religious worship. Those Druidical temples, whereof many are still existing in Ireland, were built in the same manner with that which was built by Moses, as it is described Exod. 24. 4, consisting of twelve stone pillars and an altar; but the object of the Druidish worship, at least in ages much later than the primitive times, was not, without doubt, the true God. Several plains of this name, Magh Adhair, were known in Ireland, particularly one in the country now called the Co. of Clare, where the kings of the O’Brien race were inaugurated; another, about four miles northward of Cork, now called Beal-Atha-Magh-Adhoir, from which the valley called Gleann-Magh-Adhair derives its name.
If this had been put in the shape of conjecture it would not appear so objectionable; but it is too bad to see any investigator put a shadowy speculation in the shape of demonstrated and undeniable truth. Now it is a curious fact that almost every assertion in this notice of Magh Adhair is false! (fallacious).
The name of Gleann Maghair, now Glanmire near Cork, has not the slightest analogy with that of the place in question.
What are we then to think of etymological investigators? They can take words asunder as they please, and give to each component part whatever meaning will best answer the historical theory to be established! Nothing amuses me more than the barefaced effrontery with which they urge their silly conjectures as valuable truths, and there is no class of men I hold in greater contempt than those who attempt to build a false system of history on their own etymological speculations. I respect O’Brien’s learning, but I laugh at his knowledge of Irish history and topography; I despise Vallancey as having no definite knowledge at all, for having published in his own name the MS., productions of others, and for having forged originals and given garbled and false translations of genuine historical documents; I pity O’Brien, the Budhist, as being a talented madman; but I hate Betham, as he pretends to understand a language of which he does not know one sentence, that is, any one sentence which contains a nominative, a verb, a proposition, a relative clause and an Irish idiom. A pretender in literature is as base as a Quack who administers wrong medicine.
The etymological antiquists of the last century have attempted to erect a visionary fabric of history with materials derived from false derivations of words, and I think it my duty to do my utmost to pull down their foolish systems, convinced that no nation ever derived honor from any history but that which is demonstratively true.
The Field of Magh Adhair, now anglicised the Moy-ar Park, is situated in the Townland of Toonagh in this Parish, about four miles westwards of Tulla. The place where the Dalcassian Princes were inaugurated is a moat of irregular shape which is surrounded with a fossé adapted to its outline, and about twenty feet in its greatest height.
About one hundred and forty one feet to the west of the stream called the Hell River is a liagaun or standing stone, measuring six feet four inches in height from the level of the surface of the field, three feet two inches in width and ten inches in thickness.
According to the Lecan Records and all the ancient tracts which treat of the Firbolgic Colony, the Plain of Magh Adhair in Thomond was inhabited by, and received its name from Adhar (Eyre) the son of Huamor and brother of Aengus of Dun Aengus in Aran, whose tribe came into Ireland in the first century, when Oilioll and Maeve reigned in Connaught. If this be not true, there is no truth in the account of the Bolgic tribes, but if it be true what truth can there be in O’Brien’s “Field of Adoration”?
The resemblance which this place bears to Carn Amhalgada, on which the
was made, and to Carn Fraeich at Dumha Sealga in Magh Aei, appears to me to
be remarkably striking. The Lecan Records state that Amhalghaidh Mac Fiachrach
raised the carn that it might serve as a tomb for himself (and there is no
doubt that he is entombed in the conical chamber in its interior) as a place
of fairs and meetings of the people, and that his heir might be inaugurated
on its summit, that is, standing over his own urn. This was a sure way to hand
down his own name to immortality and to establish a veneration for his own
tomb. The carn at Carn Fraeich, on which the O’Conor was inaugurated
was also, according to the Dinnseanchus, a monument raised over the remains
of a Bolgic Chieftan, but I do not know why it was adopted by the Kings of
Connaught as their place of inauguration. That the Bolgic Chieftain Eyre (Ire)
the brother of Aengus of Aran, was buried in this mound appears highly probable,
though a similar difficulty presents itself as to why it should have been adopted
by the Dalcassian family as their place of inauguration. That the O’Dowd
should have been “made” on the tomb of his great ancestor Awley,
appears sufficiently reasonable, but it looks strange enough that Chieftains
of Milesian blood should adopt the monumental mounds of Bolgic Chiefs as their
places of inauguration. Perhaps these mounds were first used as places of inauguration
by the Bolgic people of Magh Aei and Thomond, and that when these were conquered
by the Scoti in the interval between the first and beginning of the fourth
century, they took a pride in being inaugurated on the mounds on which antiquity
had impressed its veneration. Let this, however, remain for future consideration.
A.D. 981. Maelseachlainn, the son of Domhnall plundered Dal gCais and
prostrated the Bile (aged tree) of Magh Adhair, having dug it with its
roots out of the ground.
The work called the Caithreim Thoirdhealbhaigh or Wars of Torlogh, has the following references to Magh Adhair:-
A.D. 1242. After Donogh Cairbeach O’Brien had exchanged this mortal life for the happiness of angels with the victory of Unction and Penance, a Chieftan of (from) every tribe, a leader of every people, and a commander from every sept assembled around his son Conor at Moy-Eyre (Eire, Ire) to inaugurate him King in the place of his good father. It was the noble pillar of numerous hosts Sioda (Sheedy Mac Namara) who first proclaimed him (Chief or King of his people) and the rest of the Chiefs expressed their consent immediately after.
A.D. 1267. After the death of Conor, the broad eyed Brien Roe, his puissant stately son, summoned all the nobles of his people from every quarter to Moy-Eyre (Ire) to ordain (i.e., inaugurate) him King over the tribes in the place of his father. When they had met together, the cheerful sharp-eyed Sheedy (Mac Namara) proclaimed aloud his regal title, and none of the other Chiefs opposed him.
A.D. 1277. After the execution of Brian Roe, De Clare sent messengers to Turlogh to communicate to him that he would make peace with him for giving up (i.e., if he would cease from) his hostilities and dreadful incursions; and as a confirmation of the peace, the messengers told him how the King, Brian Roe, his mortal enemy, had been hanged. But without regarding De Clare’s deceitful treaty the expeditious Torlogh, crowned with conquest, proceeded with all his numerous forces to Moy-Eyre (Ire) where he was inaugurated supreme King of North Munster by Sheedy Mac Namara in the year of our Lord 1277, and the numerous hosts of North Munster rejoiced at seeing the true branch in chief command over them.
A.D. 1311. His chiefs assembled around Dermot, the son of Donogh, who was son of Brian Roe O’Brien at Moy Eyre to invest him with the chieftanship, and the tower-like hero was solemnly inaugurated. It was Loughlin, the son of Cumee, who first installed him and the states (tribes) unanimously consented. As the Bard of Dermot said on the occasion:-
A.D. 1311. Murtagh O’Brien, the son of Turlogh, was inaugurated at Magh-Adhair by Loughlin Mac Namara, in opposition to Dermot O’Brien.